Monday, April 1, 2013

Tosks of Albania

Tosk clarinet player (cover for 
Traditional Tosk Songs and Dances)
11" x 8.5", ink on paper, 2013
I have been making the distinction between commercial recordings (for the purpose of a profit) and field recordings (for educational purposes). Commercial recordings are typically recorded in a recording studio while field recordings are recorded, well, on location. While this distinction works well for my Top 100 archive, and works somewhat for my records filing system, there always will be cases where the distinction is not an appropriate one. The much-mused about blog Excavated Shellac operates precisely in that area of non-distinction. Excavated Shellac deals with 78 rpm discs from all over the world. The 78s Excavated Shellac covers were produced for the so-called ethnic market. While most these discs were commercially produced, some numbers of distribution were so limited that a profit could only be marginal. Only 200 copies were printed of some 78s for the Albanian market for example. The disc I'm writing this for is a 1929 recording by a certain Z. Kjuj Pora Fieri (ensemble Kjuj Pora from the city of Fier) whose Sgrehua Mahmudi is at #65 in my Top 100.  Many of the discs produced (by major and local labels) for the ethnic markets could be considered authentic traditional music to the same degree as in the field work of ethnomusicologists. Even major labels sometimes took their equipment on the road to record traditional music of certain ethnic groups. Columbia recorded Sgrehua Mahmudi in Southern Albania and distributed the disc in America for the ethnic Albanian population. At the time 6,000 Albanians lived in the States. Another distinction between commercially recorded discs and field recordings is that on commercial discs the musicians are typically credited while with field recordings often only ethnic groups are named, not individual musicians. This fact prompted me to make the distinction in my filing systems. Z. Kjuj Pora Fieri is therefore filed alphabetically under Pora, while if it had been recorded by say Alan Lomax, I would have filed it under Albania (Tosk, the ethnic group of Southern Albania Kjuj Pora belongs to, would be a sub-heading under Albania).

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